Let's Tackle It
August 2023 Issue
by Edwina Hoyle
Photography (top) by Cassidy Dunn Photography
In 2014 Maggie Creeden was 21 years old and a senior at the University of South Carolina in Columbia studying hospitality management. She was enjoying college—USC’s really good year of football, her sorority, Delta Zeta, and being involved in “senior things.” Maggie was excited to graduate and start the next phase of her life.
She got an upper respiratory infection and the doctor told her the lump in her neck was an enlarged lymph node due to the infection, and it was fine. He put her on antibiotics. When her mother noticed the large lump on Maggie’s neck, she and Maggie luckily decided to get a second opinion. The new doctor said, “Trust me, that lymph node is not normal.” She was in kidney failure. Her creatinine level was 11 and should have been .06. Her kidneys were functioning at only 16 percent.
That wasn’t all. “I had a super aggressive cancer: T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Only 2 percent of people my age get it. I thought there must be a greater purpose. You might have a bad day, but it could be so much worse, so take it a day at a time. I hope to help others with this diagnosis.”
“My mindset was ‘Get ’R Done!’ Let’s tackle it,” Maggie said. She thought, “At 21, I haven’t experienced life. I want to marry, have kids, go to friends’ weddings and showers. This is temporary, and we’ll figure it out. I didn’t want to focus on what-ifs, so I never Googled my diagnosis. I think that’s super important because you don’t need to see the good, the bad and the ugly. I decided I would make it.”
Maggie immediately started chemotherapy, but after the third round she was really sick and couldn’t go back to school. She took a year off. She needed to get into remission. “I had three and a half years of a grueling chemo regimen.” Maggie went back and forth from Bluffton to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston. “My Mom is my be-all and end-all. I call her St. Donna. She went to every appointment except one. Where there was me, there was her. In 2016, I graduated from college and chemo at the same time.”
“I will be nine years cancer-free in November and now my kidneys are fully functioning. My brother, Daniel, was 13 years old at that time and he gave me so much help, along with my Mom and my friends. Friends are family you pick.” Daniel, her Mom and her close friends went to the cancer center when Maggie rang her bell, a ceremonial part of cancer treatment when you reach a milestone, or officially finish chemo. “They were all standing there, and my brother was ringing it with me!”
“The human body is mysterious. It does what it wants, no matter how hard you try.” Maggie explained. She developed Avascular Necrosis, a side effect of the chemo regimen and high doses of steroids given her due to her kidney failure. “It was the first time I realized there may be ongoing side effects throughout my life.” Avascular necrosis is the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply. It can lead to tiny breaks in the bone and cause the bone to collapse. The process usually takes months to years.
“I injured my knee in 2022 and heard something crack. It was a microfracture under the meniscus. I was on crutches with no weight bearing for a rough six weeks. I’m very independent. My mother said that as a toddler I would always say, ‘I do it myself.’ It was very humbling because I couldn’t drive. I went to physical therapy to get mobility back, but I was in more pain than before the surgery. So they tried dry-needling, cupping, and more physical therapy. Then I was referred to an orthopedic specialist who figured out it was my hip.”
Maggie had already had three cortisone shots in her knee, and the specialist wanted to give her one in the hip. The injection only lasted four days, which confirmed that the problem was her hip. An MRI showed Avascular Necrosis of the hip, and Maggie went to Duke University Hospital to see about bone graft surgery, but she didn’t qualify.
Last month she had a total hip replacement and within two weeks developed sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection. She underwent washout surgery—everything placed in her hip replacement was taken out, washed and put all back together. Two days later Maggie got a blood clot in her right thigh and a filter was placed in the vein. An infectious disease doctor in Dallas, a referral source for the hospital, actually diagnosed the infection, and it was so aggressive that Maggie will have a pic line in her arm for IV antibiotic treatments through August.
She is now 30 years old and will make adjustments, stay on top of her medical issues with her doctor, and keep on keeping on. She is one determined lady: “I didn’t get this far just to come this far.”
• Maggie loves live music and her taste is all over the board: oldies, rock, pop. “But there’s nothing better than listening to country music with the windows down enjoying the Lowcountry!”
• Rosco is her 13-year old dog, a Corgie/Papillion mix who was her therapy dog throughout her surgeries.
• Maggie’s passions are working out at the gym, and traveling to check out new places for food and entertainment… and food. She loves cooking, hosting and entertaining friends—an interest she inherited from both of her grandmothers.
• Maggie was a makeover feature in Pink Magazine in 2015. She had lost most of her hair due to chemo treatments, and the wig specialist at Burke’s Pharmacy on Hilton Head fit her into a stylish, youthful, brunette wig.